Old School Shorts – Cycling Short Film Special – Riding home on moonbeams

On the last Friday of every month, the studio where I work most of the week puts on a short film night. As we’re based at the Old Church School in Frome, we call it Old School Shorts. With the Cobble Wobble looming close we though we’d ask the race organiser, Andrew Denham, to curate the event.

Andrew Denham is part of the Black Canon Collective – a group of mountain bikers who are often to be seen bombing around the forest at Longleat – sometimes dressed as superheroes – always with big grins on their faces.

Andrew chose the films for the middle section of the night. There were some crackers, from Minibike battles in Portland, to mad tricks on Scottish Streets. We managed to watch the brilliant RSA/Rapha film Two Broad Arrows by Adrian Moat (it’s no longer up on the Rapha site). As ever, we peppered the evening with music videos, vintage adverts, and amusing cat films. All projected up big on the wall of studio while we lounged around on sofas and swivel chairs, munching on pizza and nibbles and drinking beer.

Old School Shorts bicycle film night

All in all we had about an hour and half of films with two intervals. It was great to finally meet @westfieldwanderer from Radstock who I’ve been conversing with on Twitter for ages. We had a good chat about bicycle commuting, local hills and AtoB magazine.

Afterwards, Ed took some photos of the old bikes and parts that Andrew had collected to be donated for The Bristol Bike Project and we returned to the studio for music videos, Guess who games, more food and drink and good chat. People took turns on the VJ ing and we watched a myriad of films, from helmetcam madness, to Bats for Lashes videos via Vanilla Ice and Guns & Pork, my favourite part of the VJ section was a film of Andrew putting his shed up on his allotment.

Things wound up just after midnight, and I loaded up the Brompton for the ride home.The streets of Frome were doubly quiet, because I was suffering from a bit of a head cold, my hearing in my left ear had disappeared. As I’m half deaf in my right ear anyway, this meant that I could barely hear a thing. Not that there was much to hear, I didn’t see a single car moving until I left the town. I took it slowly through the streets, freewheeling wherever I could, and gently riding up the hills in the lowest gear.

On leaving the town I suddenly noticed the moon, not yet full, but incredibly bright. The wooded hill down to Oldford, normally a pitch-black potluck ride of guessing where the kerb might be, was transformed into a gently lit flight through a luminous forest. As I turned up the hill towards Beckington I pulled over to look out over the valley – gloriously rolled out before me in and picked out in sharp electric detail by the witchlight. The stark black of the distant hills, the sulphurous streetlamps of Frome itself, the deteriorating skeleton elms that lined the slope, all seemed so vibrant and hyper-real, and I was struck with an unsettling feeling that the same scene by daylight was not the true view, but merely a reflection of what I was seeing now.

I continued up the hill, my blocked up ears meant all I could hear was my own breath and the creaking of my jaw. I felt, rather than heard the steady trundling squeak of my faithful Brompton’s cranks as I spun the pedals. In the hedge to left there was a brilliant white blaze of light, as I inched closer it resolved into the shape of an old milestone. I had never noticed it before, despite passing it many, many times, yet here it was glowing fiercely under the lunar influence.

The air on the slope down into Beckington sucked the warmth from the bare skin of my arms, I had enough momentum to get halfway up the hill on the other side. Past the 24hr garage – devoid of customers, over the roundabout, devoid of traffic, past the place where the gypsies camp and hard left before the boundary stone. Ursa Major was a few degrees off horizontal, far to the West a few low and long clouds stretched themselves out above the land, the lights of a distant plane flickered on and off in the space between cloud and earth as it tracked towards the orange glow of Bristol. The lane was narrow, and the moon flung her beams directly over it from left to right, pools of moonlight settled on the tarmac, punctuating the ink-black shadows that leapt from the trees and hedges and hid the stones and cracks in the road. My Wheels seemed to find them without any trouble.

I felt I could ride on into the dawn, but the glamour of the moonlight would have worn off quickly, leaving me cold and tired to endure the long hour before daylight alone.

The village was still and silent, not even the blue flicker of a television set could be seen. The restored clock on top of the Cross Keys softly chimed one o’clock as I folded the Brompton, bid the moon a goodnight and closed the door.

I been riding – just not blogging

Hello to all. I am somewhat behind in the blogging side of things though I have been getting in a few rides, despite the weather.

First I took my car for its MOT and service – electing to use the Brompton to get back to the studio rather than a borrowed car.It was a good opportunity to use the little stretch of cycle path between Bradford-on-Avon and Trowbridge. In common with many cycle paths this is a really nice smooth path that unfortunately dumps you back into traffic at the exact point where a cycle path would be most useful. Still it made for a pleasant ride up the hill.

SDC16705

The Brompton is getting on a bit now. The folding pedal is starting to get a bit of rust on it, and there are some squeaks as I’m riding along.

Interestingly, if my Lemond Etape squeaks I’ll be trying to get it fixed within minutes of a rogue noise being detected. the slightest knock, grind, or high pitched emission from that bike is enough to have me out of the saddle and on the verge anxiously examining the cranks. With the Brompton I don’t mind at all, indeed it’s quite pleasant to have a squeak coming out as the Brompton trundles along the back lanes. The Brompton is a beautiful bike for Slow Cycling, although it can race along at 17-18mph with a bit of effort,  but then, why would you want to?

Salisbury bike lanes, a study

As I had yet again left it too late to get my car tax done in time, I decided to ride my Brompton into Trowbridge and take the train to Salisbury. The morning was wreathed in mist as I hurtled down the A361, surrounded by the terrifying thunder of huge trucks squeezing past me. It barely took me any time at all to reach Southwick, but I came up short against the big dip in the road. I still arrived at the station with ten minutes to spare, enough time to note that the price of a ticket had gone up by 30% again.

On arrival at Salisbury, rather than shoot up Fisherton Street I took some of the little bike lanes on the Avon Cycleway, come let us ride them together:

I like this bit with the complex sluice and weir, that chap is about to ride over the little bridge

I like this bit with the complex sluice and weir, that chap is about to ride over the little bridge

I'm still following him, now we weave right.

We're still following him, now we weave right.

They've generously carved out some of the carpark for us here.

They've generously carved out some of the carpark for us here. Nice to see the double yellow lines

Now we're being taken out to Castle Street, the lane gets smaller and there are cars sharing the road

Now we're being taken out to Castle Street, the lane gets smaller and there are cars sharing the road with us. Careful.

Oh a nice orange shopper on Scots Lane! Check out those whitewall tyres

Oh, let us stop to admire a nice orange shopper on Scots Lane! Check out those whitewall tyres

Ah this is more like it, later on, heading down the nice stretch by Waitrose, the river on the right.

Ah this is more like it, later on, heading down the nice stretch by Waitrose, the river on the right.

Not really the sort of riding that builds up the strength in preparation for the continental ride.

France and Belgium 4-7 April

we’ll be setting off at 0530 in the morning. We’re driving to Dover in the scout minibus. Loading the bikes onto the ferry to Dunkirk. We’re riding from Dunkirk to Ypres, then next day we’re going to head down into France towards The Somme. We’ve no idea how far we’ll get, but on Monday evening we need to be in Amiens to catch a train to Boulogne Sur Mer. Tuesday morning will see us riding along the coast to Callais and the ferry to Dover.

Oh yeah, and we’re camping!

I might try and do bits of bloggin while I’m over there if I can find some wifi. Otherwise, if you are so inclined, please keep updated with my Twitterfeed http://twitter.com/ghostorchid though again, I’m not sure how much tweeting I’ll be doing.

Wish me luck!

Published in: on April 3, 2009 at 11:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What I did in the snow

I rode out of the village in the snow to get a fresh coffee

I rode out of the village in the snow to get a fresh coffee

The snow was not deep, but the roads were slippy

The snow was not deep, but the roads were slippy

It didn't take me long to get to Mes Amis, best coffee in the local area

It didn't take me long to get to Mes Amis, best coffee in the local area

On the way back, the brompton stopped working!

On the way back, the brompton stopped working!

Somehow I had managed to throw the chain - simple enough to fix.

Somehow I had managed to throw the chain - simple enough to fix.

I was on my way home again quickly enough, crunching over the ice and snow

I was on my way home again quickly enough, crunching over the ice and snow

Riding in the snow, even if only for three miles, becomes an adventure!

Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 6:03 pm  Comments (7)  
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Brompton through Bristol

Sorry for the prolonged absence. More work. I now have a new office which has made me more efficient during the day, leaving my evenings free for blogging and other activities, and hopefully giving me more time to cycle.

That last post about cycling in Bristol? I’m pleased to say that the Brompton handled beautifully despite the sheer weight of the animation cel boxes I was carrying in the front bag. The hardest part of the journey was manhandling bike and bag up the steps of Bristol Temple Meads station. The ride to Tom’s house was easy, he lives only just off the Bristol/Bath cycle path. I was waylaid en route when I discovered the pasty emporium ensconced in the archway of a railway bridge, but soon I was weaving my way through the construction traffic towards the bike path. This is a weird area, gleaming new apartments sit amongst decaying scrap yards and builders yards. Here and there are forgotten scrublands, even a lost orchard which in the autumn spilled urban apples onto the pavement. Cobbles give way to tarmac, old tramlines and back again to cobbles sometimes in the space of a few meters. Freestanding walls were once knaves of churches or red brick warehouses, now standing stark against the sky, a facade on a movie-set for a film never to be made.

Into Easton where we were filming. The streets are a mishmash of cultures, East meets West; bollards and houses painted in vibrant colours, the local pub rubs shoulders with sikh temples and fish markets.

When I rode back to the station, dusk was falling fast. Cycling over Temple Quay Bridge was a brief but magical experience as it was lit up from underneath. It hung in the gloaming, floating like an apparition amidst the deprivation and grime-caked hoardings,  a bridge between old and new Bristol.

As it then led me to the station, it was a fitting end to the ride.

bristol bridge temple quay

Published in: on February 18, 2009 at 10:48 pm  Comments (3)  
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Live blogging on the way to Bristol

Blogging this live on my way to Bristol for a days filming with Tom Stubbs. I’m afraid I drove the five miles to the station as it will be dark when I come home and I have no lights for the Brompton. I’m going to be using a little bit of the Bristol to bath cycle path and I’m carrying two boxes of animation cell for Tom to deal with as he sees fit. Handling may well be compromised.

The day looks fine, though it is bitterly cold and we’re filming outside. I’m just enjoying the view as the train wends its way through the valley and into Bath.

Published in: on January 31, 2009 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cycling into some Headspace

Sometimes all I need is a really small ride to sort my head out. I’ve been really busy for the last few months and up until now, I’d managed to convince myself that I had no time to cycle, telling myself that time spent riding would be time wasted. How wrong I was. My work suffers greatly if I just leap right in and do the first thing that comes into my head. I am one of those unlucky people who’s first idea is rarely the best. Working to a brief or series of briefs, as I do, can feel like very reactionary work. It’s easy to slip into a mindset of just working through one thing after another, to get things done. This will often involve a state of stress, a feeling of time slipping away, and a mind not fully in the moment, but worrying about what’s going to come next.

By taking a short bike ride, I get the oxygen flowing, I move into a rhythm, and more importantly I am restricted from acting on the first idea I come up with. In a twenty minute bike ride I will have come up with five or six different ways of dealing with a brief, and probably a strategy or an angle for how I will execute the work. This means that I am able to make decisons based on ideals rather than anxieties (something I think politicians should consider).

So on Friday, though the weather was looking a little uncertain of what it might do, I pulled out the Brompton from the workshop and rode to the local garage for a passable latte. I say passable, but this is rural Somerset so what’s passable out here would be considered a travesty in the city. I cycled extra gently out of the village as the rear tyre was feeling a little soft and Mike still had my pump. The wind was making a great show of gusting about, throwing casual lumps of freezing air this way and that. As I eased up the old forgotten coach road into Beckington a fresh newspaper skittered past me and down the hill, smacking into a skeletal dead elm where it flapped manically and loudly against the sky.

The Ghost Road up to Beckington

The Ghost Road up to Beckington

At the garage I folded the bike and left it in front of the kindling wood while I went inside for the coffee. Two workmen in what were once bright yellow jackets stood at the machine stamping the cold out of their boots. As they picked the paper cups from the nozzle, they cupped them in their grimy frozen hands and hunched themselves over the steaming beverages as if to pull the heat from the coffees. One of them had lost the skin on the knuckles of his left hand, whether from the skin splitting in the cold or an unfortunate shovel accident I couldn’t say.

I lidded the coffee and paid up, storing the cup upright in one of the compartments of my Brompton bag that could have been tailor made for slipping in a tall latte and transfering to a chosen destination with minimal spillage.

The wind was behind me now and the road home was easy riding. freewheeling through the semi-flooded lanes, I had plenty of ideas as to how I was going to tackle the brief. In fact I became slightly too euphoric and was in danger of stretching the ride out further. But no, I had work to do so I resisted, then cycled for home and within five minutes I was at my desk working and sipping away.

I think I’ve made a convincing case as to why I should be riding during the working day, I therefore rest my case.

Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 11:13 pm  Comments (2)  
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To the Maen Mawr and Cerrig Duon; Dusk riding a deserted valley road in South Wales

I made this ride at the beginning of August when we went to South Wales, but it has taken me this long to put it together and load it up. I smuggled the Brompton in under the luggage in the boot of the car, and one evening I walked it up the steep stone chipping track of the cottage where we stayed, out of the farm gates and turned the bike up-valley on a deserted unclassified road. The dusk was slowly gathering over the mountainside as the sun dipped beyond the horizon. The river Tawe, freshly sprung from the mountain and not yet the torrent that rages over the rocks two miles seaward, rushed past playing sweet, watery music as it danced from pool to pool, this was the only sound in the valley. Sheep moved slowly out of the way as I eased the Brompton over the crest of the hill. At a small gravel layby I folded the bike up then carried it down to the water’s edge, following the river toward its source, looking for a safe and easy place to cross. Eventually I elected to wade through where it widened slightly, the current was not too strong, but the water was freezing, a shock to the system as it numbed me from my feet to the knees. I scrambled up the bank, immediately my sodden trousers and trainers felt incredibly warm in contrast to the chill of the river. As I followed the tracks of a sheep trail I could see the standing stone known as the Maen Mawr appearing on the horizon ahead of me. When I reached the plateau on which the stone stands, I put down the Brompton and walked round the attendant circle, Cerrig Duon. This is a small circle, the largest stone being only about two foot in height, curiously it’s not actually a circle, more of an egg shape. What most people don’t realise about this site, is that there is an avenue of small stones nearby with the flat sides of the stones all aligned in one direction. With the flat plateau, the large stone, the circle and the avenue, it’s actually a significant complex, carefully aligned north to south (or south to north) and set up for processional ritual. The view down the valley toward Dan yr Orgof and Craig Y Nos was spectacular, a few lights glowed gently, marking out the country park buildings. Back the other way the sun had solidly set, but strangely left two areas of glowing golden light on the horizon due to the nature of the mountain, the effect in the sky was quite magical. I wondered if this was significant to the builders of the complex?

As the darkness raced silently over the mountain, the dew settled gently on the spiky grass and the sound of the river became clearer and sharper. A soft mist appeared above the river, even in the 21st century, the atmosphere became liminal, other worlds felt close by, within easy reach.

This was not at all unpleasant or eerie, I felt very comfortable there, but with the light disappearing I thought it best to wade back over the river and head for the road. By the time I reached the track there was no light to guide me in save starlight, and the warm glow of the cottage windows where the moths battered softly against the panes, the whisper of their wings audible against the ubiquitous piping music of water over stone.

Published in: on August 31, 2008 at 11:29 pm  Comments (4)  
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The need for bacon compels me to ride.

The very next day after riding to the Railway Bridges, I had great need of bacon in the morning.

Ah Bacon, food of kings, breaker of vegetarians. Oft have I longed to partake of a sandwich stuffed with thy fulsome bounty, eaten fresh from the pan in a room redolent with the sweet whiff of thy preparation.

So I saddled up the Brompton and rode out into the splendor of the day in search of the magical pig product. The sky was deep blue, laced with gentle white and wispy clouds and the verges were humming with a chorus of grasshoppers and crickets, an insect orchestra performing a glorious symphony in praise of Summer. The sound took me back to cycling holidays in France with the original Highway Cycling Group. Glass bottles of Coca-Cola, handfuls of warm baguette broken from the stick of bread hanging off the panniers on my father’s bike. Poring over a michelin map, on the verge, dry white grass-stalks, heat haze, shimmering mirages on the dusty tarmac, and the steady insect hum from the crickets and grasshoppers.

Riding out of the village I passed the fields of sunflowers, now in full bloom, their faces seeking the light. The main road was busy and I was relieved to pull off into the local farm shop. Then, loaded up with sweet, sweet bacon, I rode back through Beckington to the village, where the bacon was then cooked and consumed.

Why, I even made you a little film of the ride using my compact digital camera. I’ve added some music by My Two Toms, I’m not sure what this track is called, it may even be unreleased, you lucky people.

To the Railway Bridges

Do you know that feeling, when you just ‘have to ride’ ? Perhaps it begins with a restlessness, maybe repeated glances at the window, agitation, sighing, even a little heart-ache. This is the urge to ride, a demanding physical need to spin the cranks, to be moving through the air, to feel the road thrumming beneath the tyres, to bring endless horizons towards you, rolling on, and on, and on.

On Friday I couldn’t get out to join John and Andy on their afternoon ride, but when the chance came to take just half an hour, I had to ride, my bike of choice was the Brompton. The destination was the two railway bridges between Brokerswood and Dilton Marsh. One of riveted iron, straight and wide, the other of brick, arching gently out of the ground. Only a hundred yards or so apart, they span different stretches of track and the junction where the lines part can be seen in the distance from the brick bridge. Maybe a mile or two further in that direction sits another, larger bridge, off the beaten track. No road seems to lead to its grand arch, it will be the subject of another cycle quest another time.

I made another cycle film of the journey- this one is epic by my standards – nearly six and a half minutes long. It’s filmed entirely on my little compact digital camera so the quality leaves a lot to be desired, I would like to think that it has a charming sort of super8 feel to it, but that is very much wishful thinking. The film contains variously, a farm cat, lots of shots of power and telephone lines and pylons, the long hill at Rudge (road technically closed, you can see it’s all dug up) the tin tabernacle at Brokerswood, wheat fields, hedges, verges, the two railway bridges (the iron one only briefly because I could hear a train heading for the other bridge so I turned back and headed for the brick bridge to film it), a train and a feather. The music is by John Cage.

Power and phone lines fascinate me, I think partially because we do such a good job of editing them from our vision and memory. They are so ubiquitous yet it seems to be possible to view a landscape without seeing them at all. A photograph can be startling when it restores these invisible towers and poles that we have edited out of our memories of the landscape.

Pylons viewed from the road between Frome and Standerwick

Pylons viewed from the back road that runs between Frome and Standerwick

For some reason that I cannot articulate, or even fully understand, I find pylons and telephone lines beautiful. I particularly like to see pylons striding out across fields, or better still, a skewed line of telephone poles lining a country road.

Telephone poles on the road to Dilton

Telephone poles on the road to Dilton

This fascination of mine extends only to wires and lines, it does not include phone masts, I’m not sure if it includes radio masts. I would very much like to see a map with all the above ground powerlines added.

Apparently one of my first words was “Pylon”.